Excerpt from Chasing Spirits © Nick Groff, 2012When I was at St. Patrick School in Pelham, New Hampshire, I had one teacher who really got through to me. Mrs. Moran saw that I was always daydreaming and making up stories. I didn’t want to listen in class; I wanted to do my own thing. She helped me to develop my storytelling.
I had just seen Cujo, the movie about the rabid dog based on Stephen King’s book. In my head I was imagining a story about a three-legged dog that followed me and my friends home. Instead of dismissing me for having crazy ideas, Mrs. Moran sat with me and helped me put them down on paper. She helped me find something I really like to do: tell stories. I think I still have that story of the three-legged dog sitting around somewhere . . . and no, you can’t see it! (Just kidding . . . I will try to find it and post it on my Web site someday.) I’ve been a storyteller since a very young age. I still am. I always will be.
Movies were a huge influence on me too. I remember watch¬ing E.T. as a kid. Both the movie and the subject left a huge impact. I was blown away by the idea that UFOs could visit us, and by the incredible characters and the experiences everyone went through. Paranormal themes spoke to me even as a wide-eyed kid munching popcorn in a dark theater while watching a Steven Spielberg masterpiece.
In fact, I can’t think about my childhood without also think¬ing about movies. I was in love with every part of the moviegoing experience. When I sat down to watch a movie, I escaped every¬thing. Everyday activities, anything that was frustrating about home or school was gone when the movie rolled. I would put myself in the movie—I was right there with the characters hav¬ing an adventure. And when I left the theater, those adventures would continue, in the woods and in my head.
Growing up, we had only one TV with big rabbit-ear anten¬nae, so we didn’t get many channels, but of course we could rent movies. I was about six years old when I walked in on my sister watching Alien. I joined her, and it scared the crap out of me.
Every time I’d watch a horror movie, it would give me night¬mares. I’ll never forget Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street and the character Freddy Krueger. Cat’s Eye, Pet Sematary, Chil¬dren of the Corn, It, Twilight Zone—all these movies scared the shit out of me. I was a huge Stephen King fan back then. I loved the adrenaline rush that only fear can bring—although some¬times that made it tough for a kid to sleep. My parents would sometimes wake up in the morning and find me sleeping on the floor in their bedroom near the foot of their bed. I didn’t care. I still wanted to see more horror movies. Fear made me feel alive.
I’d do anything to get my hands on more scary movies. One time I was at the video rental store trying to rent Dr. Giggles. It was rated R and I was just a kid. The video clerk told me that I couldn’t rent it without a parent’s permission. I pointed to a woman across the store and convinced the clerk that she was my mother. When I got home, my real mother was pissed that I had rented the slasher film.
Maybe it was the horror movies combined with my overactive imagination, but even my room frightened me. I was scared of what might be under the bed. Some nights there was nothing and I slept fine, but on other nights I had this sense that I wasn’t alone in there. It could have been just in my head, but danger lurks in funny places. By looking for ghosts and monsters, I would learn to face fear, to control it within myself.
I know children are more sensitive to the supernatural. Over time we learn to forget what we feel because adults tell us it can’t be real. But what if you don’t believe that? I know we say ghosts aren’t real because we want to protect our children, because we want them to feel safe. Knowing what I know now, I can see I was sensitive as a kid. I’ve lost most of that sensitivity over the years, but not all. I don’t feel I’m psychic, which can be a good thing when you’re looking for ghosts. I know that if I see some¬thing it’s not some psychic sense. It’s real and right there. And if I can see it, my camera can see it too. I can tell the difference between my own psychic impression and what’s physically in the room with me, but that skill took dozens of investigations to develop. An impression is almost like a memory, even though the event is happening in the present moment. If the spirit is manifesting in the room right now, then I’m using my regular senses to experience the entity.
My childhood was not one paranormal event after the other, but I can look back now and see that there were events that couldn’t be explained. There were connections between adven¬tures, accidents, and life experiences that molded me into who I am today. The same could be said for all of us—we are all a product of every moment of our lives up to this point. But this is how I was drawn into the paranormal and how I launched a career on television. It wasn’t a single event, but a bunch of small moments that steered me to this. Two seconds here, two seconds there, and you end up exactly where you are now.
Throughout these pages I’m going to answer some of the most common questions you’ve asked me on Facebook, Twitter, and in person, and I’ll bare it all. We’ll go behind the scenes and into my own life because I want you to see the world through my eyes. I want you to know more about the history of the locations I’ve investigated, and I want you to understand why I’m chasing spirits.
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